Background to the programme
Faced with he increase in energy costs, social workers are increasingly called upon to deal with problems linked to energy bills. As it's an area in which they aren't necessarily qualified, it seemed essential to CEDER to provide the with training and the tools to effectively support households with energy problems.
Objectives of the programme
- To provide social workers with the information needed to treat energy questions: reading bills, knowing who to direct the public towards depending on the problem, etc.
- Definition of permanent needs and those arising from the training session by social workers from the medico-social centres, then setting up support sessions. Organisation of information and awareness sessions on reading bills, measuring consumption, etc. General training on 1 day: 1 half day with the solidarity teams from EDF and GDF Suez Provence.
- Setting up a permanent energy room where the social workers are supported by an energy professional.
- Creating and running permanent stands in the Medico-Socail Centres to reach a public who would not go through the process of asking for energy information themselves. Faced with the time consuming process of integrating energy information into the already heavy work load of social workers, the energy counsellors have moved to the medico-social centres so as to be permanently available to social workers and to speak to the public.
Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions
- Creation of an "energy culture" amongst social workers: understanding of energy bills, better understanding of consumption measures (KWH, ratios, etc.) CEDER has then noticed that they sent fewer and fewer people to households about problems of overconsumption as the social workers have acquired the knowledge to deal with this problem: they know that a large energy bill is not necessarily linked to high consumption but could be due to a building problem or the cost of the energy.
- A qualitative evaluation had been carried out in December 2011 (see annex 1) to measure the satisfaction levels amongst social workers who followed the training course. Out of the 78 trained social workers who were consulted, 35% have responded to the evaluation.
- 96% said that the information given to them in the training sessions has been useful.
- But the tools distributed, like the CD-ROM (which compiled the annexes, technical documents, brochures.) were revealed to be not very useful, not due to a lack of interest but a lack of time.
The treatment of energy poverty is complex as it's an interdisciplinary problem which concerns professionals from multiple domains who are not accustomed to working together and who, individually, do not possess all the necessary skills to provide a comprehensive response to the problem. The social workers are often the first to contact households in difficulty so enabling them to be trained on the question of energy represents an indispensable first step in finding a joint response.
Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme
- Financiers: Territorial Unit of Haut Vaucluse (UTHV), Solidarity Housing Service of CG84, ADEME, Regional Council PACA and the PACA Saving Federation Fund of Corsica.
- The four Medico-Social Centres in the region.
Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :
- The social workers heavy workload which makes it difficult to put a new problem into the cases they're already working on.
- Mobilisation of the targeted public is difficult: among the people met by the social workers at the energy room, 22 people have effectively shown up out of the 39 meetings arranged (results from the first year).
Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :
- Re-contact the individuals a few days after the meeting to emphasise the benefits: quite efficient but a heavy workload.
Suggestions for future improvement :
- To expand the energy training to include other energies: during the evaluation (see annex 1) a large number of social workers have expressed the wish to also be trained on the theme of wter consumption.
- To make it easier to access supportive information on energy saving behaviour by translating it into several languages or by focussing on the visual support for people who can't understand French or can't read very well: this poses the problem of choosing the language, the choice of message, of images, etc.
- Development path: to give EIE access to information from the solidarity platforms of old suppliers: today the rules regarding data confidentiality do not allow energy suppliers to provide information on their clients except to social workers or social mediators.
Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :
- Definition of the content of the training sessions by the social workers themselves according to their needs, which enables better participation and better understanding of the information delivered.
- Intervention by solidarity teams from EDF and GDF Suez: they're the people who the social workers normally work with by phone. This allows them to meet, to put a face to the name and by humanising the collaboration, some tension has been dispersed and the following collaboration has been made easier.
- Making it long lasting - Evolution of the training: over the years, it will continue in the form of small modules delivered during meetings at the workplace of the social workers in order to reduce how time consuming the training sessions are.